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Norway look to fulfill their potential under new management

Updated: Jul 13, 2023


Norway will look to have a better showing in the World Cup than they had in the Euros last summer. Photo: Kristian Moe

Norway and the World Cup was a blossoming love story in the early days of the competition. In the first ever edition in 1991, the Norwegians made it all the way to the final, before falling to winners USA, losing 1-2.


However, Norway bounced right back in 1995, making it to the final for the second consecutive tournament. This time it was Germany who stood in the way of Norwegian World Cup glory. Norway did not want a repeat of the feeling of losing another final, and thanks to two quick goals from Hege Riise and Marianne Iren Pettersen right before halftime, Norway could lift the coveted World Cup trophy.


The following tournament ended a little prematurely for the reigning champions, who ended up finishing 4th, losing on penalties to Brazil in the third-place play-off.


The fourth-place finish in 1999, was followed up by a quarter-final exit in 2003, before another 4th place finish followed in 2007.


Since then, Norway´s results in the World Cup have been rather disappointing. In Germany in 2011, they went out in the group stage before making it out of the group stage in 2015, but going out in the round of 16 to England.


In the most recent World Cup which was held in France, Norway had a better showing than the previous two editions. They finished second in the group behind host nation France and progressed to the round of 16 where they faced Australia. Nothing could separate the two sides after 120 mins and the tie went to penalties, in which the Norwegians prevailed, setting up another World Cup meeting with England in the quarter-final.


Unfortunately for Norway, England proved once again too strong and ended up winning quite convincingly 3-0, knocking the Norwegians out for the second consecutive World Cup.


Going into the 2023 edition of the tournament, Norway arrive with a mixed bag of results. Their most recent showing in an international tournament was last summer´s Euros, where they famously went out in the group stage, including the disastrous 0-8 defeat to eventual champions England.


After that, the Norwegian Football Federation decided it was time for a managerial change and sacked Martin Sjögren, and replaced him with Hege Riise. Riise secured qualification to the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Belgium in her debut game but faced challenges after that by losing star player Caroline Graham Hansen from the squad after the Barcelona player needed a break from the national team due to her recent heart complications. Weeks later, she also lost Ada Hegerberg to injury for seven months and had to also deal with absences from captain Maren Mjelde and midfielder Ingrid Syrstad Engen.


Since taking charge, Riise has wanted to face stronger teams in friendlies and games, and despite all the major absences, she has managed positive results against big teams like France, Netherlands and Sweden.


There are question marks over Norway before this World Cup, with the biggest being if they can make the previous wrongs right and fulfill their potential under new management.


Coach:

Norway´s coach is the legendary Hege Riise. She is Norway´s most capped player with 188 appearances for the national team, and was part of Norway´s golden era in the 1990´s and early 2000´s, which included winning the European Championship in 1993, the World Cup in 1995 and the Olympics in 2000.


After retiring as a player in 2006, Riise went straight into management taking over Team Strømmen in the Norwegian league in 2007. In the following season, in 2008, she took finished runners-up in both the league and cup with Team Strømmen, before being appointed assistant coach for the USA national team in 2009, a role she stayed in until 2012.


Hege Riise is the new head coach of Norway after Martin Sjögren was sacked following last year´s Euros. Photo: Kristian Moe

Riise then returned to Norway as assistant coach for LSK Kvinner, and took over as head coach for the club in 2016. During her reign as LSK Kvinner head coach, she won the league four years in a row (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), and added the cup as well in 2016, 2018 and 2019.


She left LSK Kvinner after the 2020 season and was appointed interim head coach for England in 2021, where she managed the team in three friendlies, beating Northern Ireland 6-0 and losing to both France and Canada.


In March 2021, it was announced that Riise would take charge of Team GB at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. They progressed from the group as group winners, but lost 4-3 to Australia after extra-time in the first knockout game.


Following her stint with Team GB, Riise took charge of Norway´s women´s under-19 national team, and lead them to a silver medal in the 2022 European Championship, losing 1-2 to Spain in the final.


After the disastrous campaign from the senior women´s national team at the Euros in England last summer, resulting in Martin Sjögren getting sacked, it was announced on August 3rd that Riise would be the new head coach of Norway.


Under her management, Norway has gone away from Sjögren´s approach of trying to dominate games in a 4-4-2-formation, and changed to a more cynical approach focusing on defensive solidity and stability in 4-2-3-1 or 5-4-1. As mentioned, this has lead to good results against teams like France, Netherlands and Sweden, but also crushing defeats to Brazil, Denmark and Spain for example.


Squad:


For her World Cup squad, Riise has chosen players that have been in her squad for previous national team camps. She is familiar with all of them and there are no big surprises.


The only debate before the final selection was in the goalkeeper department. Brann keeper Aurora Mikalsen was pretty nailed on in the squad, as she has been the keeper Riise has started in previous games.


After returning from her ACL injury, Cecilie Fiskerstrand has gotten valuable game time for her club LSK Kvinner, so the fact that the former first choice goalkeeper for Norway was selected came as no real surprise.


It then came down to who the third and final goalkeeper in the squad would be. That battle was between Vålerenga keeper Guro Pettersen and Stabæk´s Sunniva Skoglund. Both of them have been regularly featured in Riise´s squads previously, but the former has struggled a little with game time at her club due to competition from Jalen Tompkins.


However, the American shot-stopper got injured, which opened the door for Pettersen to start for Vålerenga. Despite this, it was expected that Skoglund would get the nod for the World Cup squad, but Riise has gone for three experienced goalkeepers for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, which meant that the 21-year-old keeper missed out this time.


Apart from that, the squad pretty much picked itself. Some surprise inclusions could have been made, like Lyn´s Anna Aahjem, Rosenborg´s Emilie Nautnes for example, but neither of them made it.


Finally, it´s worth noting that Manchester United duo Maria Thorisdottir and Lisa Naalsund did not get selected. The former is currently in rehabilitation after an injury, whilst also Naalsund´s injury problems and lack of game time this season prevented her from going on the plane “Down Under”.


Goalkeepers: Cecilie Fiskerstrand (LSK Kvinner), Aurora Mikalsen (Brann), Guro Pettersen (Vålerenga)


Defenders: Maren Mjelde (Chelsea), Anja Sønstevold (Inter Milan), Tuva Hansen (Bayern Munich), Guro Bergsvand (Brighton), Mathilde Harviken (Rosenborg), Marit Bratberg Lund (Brann), Sara Hørte (Rosenborg).


Midfielders: Emilie Haavi (Roma), Guro Reiten (Chelsea), Frida Maanum (Arsenal), Vilde Bøe Risa (Manchester United), Ingrid Engen (Barcelona), Amalie Eikeland (Reading), Thea Bjelde (Vålerenga).


Forwards: Caroline Graham Hansen (Barcelona), Ada Hegerberg (Lyon), Karina Sævik (Vålerenga), Julie Blakstad (BK Häcken), Sophie Roman Haug (Roma), Anna Jøsendal (Rosenborg).


Caroline Graham Hansen will be crucial for Norway at the World Cup. Photo: Kristian Moe

Best player: Caroline Graham Hansen


Norway has a plethora of talented players to choose from. One can always mention six-time UEFA Women´s Champions League winner and former Ballon d´Or winner Ada Hegerberg, or Chelsea´s Guro Reiten. Both of them are outstanding talents, but for this segment in the article, Norway´s star player/best player is Caroline Graham Hansen.


The Barcelona winger is back with the national team after her break due to heart complications and comes into the squad on the back of winning the Champions League with La Blaugrana.


Graham Hansen will play a key role in Riise´s Norway team, and she will have to be at her usual best for the Norwegians to go far. The right-winger can create something out of nothing with her dazzling and silky smooth dribbling skills and ball control, and is every defender´s worst nightmare on her day.


Her creativity, goal-scoring, unpredictability and world-class quality will be instrumental for Norway´s attacking play and chance creation. A Caroline Graham Hansen in form can unlock any defence, and Norway will rely a lot on her for goal contributions.


Player to watch: Anna Jøsendal


As for a player to watch in this Norway team, it´s very easy to be drawn towards the big names like Hegerberg, Reiten or Maanum.


However, a player that goes under the radar for the international audience, is 22 year old Anna Jøsendal. The Rosenborg winger has had an outstanding campaign in Toppserien so far, producing 7 goals and 8 assists in 16 games.


Jøsendal has already drawn attention from foreign clubs and could be on the move soon. She may also grab a starting spot at left-wing for Norway at the World Cup, should Riise opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation.


With a dangerous and precise left foot, goal threat, pace, flair and creativity, Anna Jøsendal is definitely a player to keep an eye on for this World Cup.


Anna Jøsendal is a player to watch this summer. Photo: Kristian Moe

Group stage head to head:


For the 2023 World Cup, Norway have been drawn into group A alongside host nation New Zealand, Switzerland and the Philippines. They have never faced the Philippines, but have history with both New Zealand and Switzerland.


Norway have faced Switzerland on four occasions previously, losing twice, winning once and drawing once. Their most recent meeting is back in 2010 in an international friendly, in which Norway were victorious winning 2-1.


Their record against the hosts New Zealand is a lot more pleasant for Norway. They have faced off against the Kiwis seven times before, winning five of them, drawing one and losing one. The last game between the two teams was last year, a game which Norway won 2-0. New Zealand´s win came back in 2019, a 1-0 win, whilst the draw was a 1-1 draw in 2014.


Expectations/Predictions:


The big question that remains to be answered is “What can we expect from Norway this time around?”


After last summer´s tragic showing, both head coach Hege Riise and Lyon star Ada Hegerberg, have played down the expectations for this year´s World Cup to Norwegian media outlets. Arguably a natural thing to do given what happened in England a year ago, but with the talent in the squad, it´s very difficult to not be excited or not have some expectations to Norway.


Riise and Hegerberg have both noted in press conferences that winning the group is the main goal. Based on Norway´s quality and the group they have been drawn into, that should be a very attainable goal. Anything else than topping group A will be a major disappointment, but it´s unlikely that they won´t end up doing that.


The level of opposition in the knock out phase will naturally increase. In the round of 16, a meeting with either Japan or Spain is on the cards for Norway, should they meet the expectations and progress from the group stage. A match-up with Spain could be a very tasty one, but also one that Norway would like to avoid, even when Spain are missing so many talented players. It was only back in April of this year that the same Spain team, minus Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmati, and Ona Batlle, completely outplayed Norway in a friendly and won 4-2.


A clash with Japan would therefore be much more favored from a Norwegian perspective, and in that one, the chances of progressing to the quarter-finals are significantly higher.


Anything can happen in the knockout stages, but looking at it realistically and depending on the draw, a run to the quarter-final is not out of the question for Norway. Progressing from the group is a minimum, preferably winning it, and after that, we will see what happens.


Prediction: Round of 16 or quarter-final


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